2023 is the Year of the Trail in NC, and we’ve extended our trail experiences into December! This month we strolled downtown for the Blowing Rock Art & Sculpture Trail, hiked the Robbins Trail at The Blowing Rock, trekked up Duncan Rd. at the Cone Trails, and tackled the Mountains to Sea Trail from Shulls Mill to Trout Lake. As always, please remember to pack plenty of water and snacks, and to do some research before you set out on your hiking experience. Read along below, and see what we’ve been up to in December.

Blowing Rock Art & Sculpture Trail

As we established early in Year of the Trail, not all trails are rugged hiking experiences. There are different kinds with different surfaces, and some have fun cultural aspects. This is one of those trails. Created to meander through Blowing Rock and take in all of the art that makes the town beautiful, the Art & Sculpture trail has plenty to offer. There are fifteen stops on this trail and two bonus stops that are located in restaurants that are open for reservations. The trail covers fan favorites such as Jesse in front of Blowing Rock Community Library, and The Gardener in Memorial Park. It also shows lesser known sculptures such as kinetic sculputes Smokey, and Norma’s Flowers. This trail takes you on a 2.8 mile loop through the middle of downtown allowing you to be close to coffee shops and stores where you can pop in and warm up. There are also benches in downtown where you can sit and rest. Perusing all of the great art in town is a fantastic way to spend the afternoon.

Blowing Rock Art & Sculpture Trail

Trail Length: 2.8 mi loop

Difficulty: easy to moderate

Surface: sidewalk & paved

Trail Use: walking, jogging, leashed dogs okay

Blaze: N/A

Getting There:

From US 321 Turn into Shoppes on the Parkway Dr. Park at the end of the shopping center, closest to the road. You will begin the trail from the sidewalk at the front of Shoppes on the Parkway and continue to the right towards Chetola.

NC Mountains to Sea Trail

The NC Mountains to Sea Trail stretches 1,175 miles across our stunning state. The trail passes through Blowing Rock along the High Country Segment, following the Blue Ridge Parkway for much of the segment. This 3-mile portion from Shull’s Mill Road to Trout Lake is a beautiful ramble through the woods, with access available all year regardless of any winter-weather closures on the Parkway. A set of wooden stairs marks the beginning of this particular hike. They simply ascend up the hillside directly from the side of the road! The first half mile is a steady climb that adds difficulty to the overall route. The trail winds through a mix of tall hardwood (husks on the ground suggest hickory) and evergreen trees for an initial elevation gain of 500 feet.

Trail Length: 3 miles

Difficulty: easy to moderate

Surface: ½ mile of single-track dirt, remaining distance is wide gravel path

Trail Use: Hiking, leashed dogs ok

Blaze: white dot

After this climb, we crossed over the step stile at the top of the hill to gain access to the Carriage Trails inside Cone Memorial Park. This access point is along Rich Mountain Trail- we turned right to head toward Trout Lake. From there, the trail is wide and easy. Huge boulders dot the hillside to the left,  several constantly dripping with water from active springs. Soon, the path opens up to pasture and heads downhill to a signed intersection. We turned right there, then left after another 1/10 mile, to continue along the Mountains to Sea path through Cone Memorial Park. The trail enters into shady forest once more, with several streams passing through the woods and under the trail. A large gate across the trail has a hikers gate to one side. From the gate, it’s about 1.5 miles to the Trout Lake parking area. The descent to Trout Lake continues on a gradual slope, with some picturesque switchbacks through the forest and glimpses of the lake from above. Once we arrived at lake level, the trail forked once more. We turned right to head to the Trout Lake parking area. After a short distance, a foot path to the right led up to the parking area. We opted to use two vehicles for our group, so this was the end of our hike.   

Getting There:

There is an informal parking area on Shulls Mill Road, on the left about 1.7 miles from the Blowing Rock end. There’s room for 4 or 5 cars. Be sure to back in to park to allow for a safer departure. You’ll see a trail marker at the parking area; this portion of the trail continues toward Price Lake. For this hike, walk along the road back toward Blowing Rock several yards to a set of wooden steps on the other side of the road. To hike this 3-mile route one way, park a second vehicle or arrange a pick up at Trout Lake parking area.

Robbin’s Trail

This trail is accessed from the Blowing Rock Attraction and payment is required to access. Park in the main parking lot and enter through the building. While this trail is short on paper, prepare to climb up and down some pretty steep steps before starting out! A great workout with very rewarding views, this trail is worth the effort if you find yourself in town and don’t have the time to head out onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. This trail takes approximately 30 minutes to complete. You’ll need no special gear or expertise to take on these trails, but do be aware that during cold winter days there can be some ice chunks along the path, so tread carefully! This trail is open year round, and also makes for a wonderful wildflower hike in the Spring and Summer months!

Trail Length: 0.5 mile loop

Difficulty: Moderate with some steep sections

Surface: Boardwalk and steps with some breif gravel sections

Trail Use: Hiking (Dogs must be leashed)

Blaze: N/A

Getting There:

From Blowing Rock, take HWY 321 toward Lenoir. On the left you will see the Green Park Inn and on the right there will be a sign for The Blowing Rock Attraction. At the stoplight turn right and stay straight on the road until you reach the Blowing Rock Attraction.

Duncan Rd.

Moses H. Cone Memorial Park is one of the most iconic landmarks anywhere along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We’ve been exploring the Cone Trails all throughout 2023 as part of Great Trails NC’s #YearOfTheTrail, and figured we’d pack in one more before the year was over. This week we hiked Duncan Road, one of the main carriage trails connecting Flat Top Manor and Bass Lake. A great walk with some spectacular views, we simply can’t recommend this trail enough!

Trail Length: 5 miles out and back

Difficulty: Moderate

Surface: gravel 

Trail Use: hiking, leashed dogs okay, horseback riding

Blaze: N/A

This trail connects from Bass Lake to Flat Top Manor, making it one of the best routes to access both locations. A gentle trail, the surface is a wide gravel and doesn’t require any special footwear, although you will be gaining and losing some elevation as you go so be ready to climb in some areas. Enjoy a stroll along the historic old carriage trails through rhododendron lined forests, and expect to see at least a couple fellow hikers as this trail is relatively popular throughout the year due to its ease of access.


As we’ve mentioned above, horseback riding and carriage rides are also available to reserve ahead of time. While we were out on the trail, Chad from Carriage Run passed by and was kind enough to ask if we’d like a ride.


Although we don’t recommend getting into just ANY random carriage in the woods with a stranger, we have to admit that it was a wonderful way to spend a crisp afternoon in December and we can’t thank Chad and the folks at Carriage Run enough!


Getting There:

Take US 221 towards Linville and travel for about 1 mile. Turn left onto the entrance for Bass Lake. 

Wrapping Up

We’ve wrapped up this year’s Year of the Trail with one hike per week equalling 52 trails! We’ll be looking back over these trails with fresh eyes this upcoming year, so be prepared for more information to come. See more about Year of the Trail in Blowing Rock >> There is also ongoing maintenance on the Parkway. To see if it will affect your hiking plans, see our page: Improvement Projects on the Blue Ridge Parkway.